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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Abstracts

May I be excused? Why teachers leave the profession

Volume 30 Number 2, June 2010; Pages 199–211
John Buchanan

Telephone interviews with 21 ex-teachers in Sydney were used to identify their reasons for leaving the profession. The teaching experience of the participants, 14 women and seven men, ranged from a few months to 20 years. Results were compared to evidence from a review of relevant literature. Several key issues emerged. Support from other staff had often been lacking, with some peers unwilling to share resources. Some had faced an 'anti-intellectual' reaction to their possession of post-graduate qualifications. Those teaching ESL students spoke of having their work belittled, and of generating resentment from peers if students were withdrawn from mainstream classes. Some participants saw mentoring as helpful, others were wary that it could be superficial and undertaken for self-promotion. Some participants referred to workload as 'monstrous' and 'relentless', in contrast to public impressions of short working days and frequent holidays. They linked workload to the level of responsibility they felt for their students' futures. They also resented some non-teaching duties, including 'irrelevant meetings' listening to 'pompous' delivery of bureaucratic messages. Classroom management emerged as a major issue, despite the relative neglect of this topic in the literature. Some participants had faced threats of violence that 'would be seen as a gross breach of workplace behaviour' in other professions. More generally they found many students hostile, resistant to learning and unmoved by learning experiences that had inspired the teachers themselves. They believed that parents tended to support their children against teachers in the event of conflict and often failed to take enough responsibility for their children's development. Working conditions and salary were generally poorer than their subsequent jobs which, for the participants, signified the low status of teaching. They recommended that new teachers be protected from undue stress, through smaller class sizes and/or fewer hours of classroom teaching and through team teaching and good quality mentoring. They also felt it was important to establish solidarity around student discipline and a collegial atmosphere. Another problem for further consideration is the tendency for new teachers to be appointed to difficult-to-staff locations where they face isolation and an alien social milieu.

KLA

Subject Headings

Teaching profession
Teaching and learning
Teacher-student relationships
New South Wales (NSW)

Building excellent education systems: from conception to implementation at scale

Number 189, November 2009
Michael Barber, Michael Fullan, Tony Mackay, Vic Zbar

The paper describes three International Education Leaders' Dialogues conducted in 2006, 2007 and 2008. All the dialogues included the jurisdictions of England, New South Wales, South Australia and Ontario, and the latter two also included Victoria, Hong Kong and Singapore. The first Dialogue called for comprehensive educational support for families of children aged 0–5 and help for principals in raising their 'knowledge, skills, expectations, attitude, technology and resources'. To implement reform it called for frequent collection and analysis of student performance data; a system of incentives to reward schools that succeed, combined with supports and ultimately interventions for schools that do not; a shift in central bureaucracies toward strategic oversight rather than direct control; and capacity building, including the development of school-level leadership. The second Dialogue identified a number of central themes concerning the implementation of reform. The politics of the reform process needs attention, including the building of alliances with stakeholders. Clear roles need to be established for each tier of education, including the often-neglected middle tier. Across school education, initiatives need to be integrated not disparate. Schools that are coasting on fairly good performance levels need to be set different challenges than struggling schools. School heads should be given support and challenges that match their levels of experience and expertise. Capacity building requires ongoing attention to the steady, predictable allocation of resources where they are most needed. The third Dialogue identified a number of challenges for reform. The 'human capital' challenge raises the need for 'collaborative professionalism' that closely engages teachers in their own learning and prepares them to respond quickly to new challenges. The concept of teacher autonomy needs to be modified to recognise 'an agreed body of knowledge about what works'. This meeting also raised the need for ongoing professional learning and the need to value the teaching profession. Other challenges include finding ways to generalise successful trial programs, to achieve greater transparency, and to promote monitoring of school performance by peer schools as far as possible, while reserving a role for education systems to intervene directly in failing schools.

KLA

Subject Headings

Educational planning
Educational evaluation
Education policy
New South Wales (NSW)
South Australia
Victoria
Singapore
Great Britain
Canada
Hong Kong

Seductions of risk and school cyberspace

Volume 26 Number 5, August 2010; Pages 690–703
Andrew Hope

The increasing presence of the internet in schools has resulted in widespread discussion about the perceived risks and dangers of cyberspace. In many cases this has resulted in 'over-blocking', with schools monitoring and controlling computer and internet access in a way that may hamper legitimate educational use. Drawing on interviews with 30 staff and 63 students from eight schools in Britain, the author examined perceptions of online risk, experience of internet use and issues of school control. The main risks perceived by staff were those related to accessing pornography, chat rooms, hate-filled material and websites relating to topics such as illegal drugs or explosives. Cyberbullying was not raised as an issue. Students' accessing of pornographic material was the main issue of concern for the staff. Teachers of younger students were concerned about its potential psychological effects on them, while teachers of older students saw it as a discipline issue and were concerned about its effects on a school's reputation. These concerns frequently led to over-blocking, which was evident in the interviewed students' concerns over being punished for perceived internet misuse. While schools' filtering processes were often successful in keeping out much unwanted material, they were often overzealous, blocking access to websites that students were legitimately trying to access as part of their research for subjects such as history or health, or blocking access to sites being used for general surfing purposes. Concerns over the potential misuse of the internet frequently led to ICT rooms being locked during break times, or to students' computer access being blocked altogether. Such approaches not only raise issues of the 'digital divide', but also reduce students' opportunities to learn to assess and manage risks. Schools should be more lenient in their definitions of 'educational' material, and should not make the assumption that students will inevitably misbehave. They should work with students to develop a more democratic approach to internet use, while helping them understand that accessing material deemed wholly inappropriate may undermine their efforts to use the internet in a broader and more creative manner. Such efforts should help reduce issues of over-blocking, and result in a more open and less punitive culture of technology use.

KLA

Subject Headings

School culture
Behaviour management
Internet
Great Britain

The importance of collegiality and reciprocal learning in the professional development of beginning teachers

Volume 36 Number 3, August 2010; Pages 277–289
Fiona Patrick, Dely Elliot, Moira Hulme, Alastair McPhee

Good quality induction processes can be vital in facilitating the socialisation of new teachers into the profession and can provide essential personal and professional support. Interviews were used to examine the induction experiences of 25 new teachers from six schools in Scotland. Each of the teachers underwent a year-long formal induction process. Several factors enhanced the professional learning of the new teachers. These included the structural affordances of the induction program, which involved formal mentoring, a reduced timetable and tailored professional development; the opportunities for feedback that came with lesson observation and with informal discussions with staff; and the collegial culture of their schools. Each of the schools had an informal policy of including new teachers in a range of extra-curricular and school development activities. This helped new teachers develop a sense of belonging as well as a better sense of the school's practices and processes. Less hierarchical management styles were seen as supportive in helping the early career teachers learn. Another positive element of the induction process was the more experienced teachers' willingness to work with and learn from the new teachers, resulting in reciprocal professional learning that both valued and extended the new teachers' contributions. Effective and open communication channels and the frequent opportunities to speak openly with more experienced colleagues about a range of issues were also valuable. However, some inhibitors to early professional learning were identified. These included a lack of full-time ongoing employment following the induction year, a lack of structured support for teachers who had completed their induction year but who were still largely inexperienced, and unclear career paths that made it difficult to manage professional development opportunities.

KLA

Subject Headings

Professional development
Teaching and learning
Teacher training
Scotland
School culture

Ensuring every child matters: issues and implications for school leadership

Volume 29 Number 4, September 2009; Pages 337–352
Alma Harris, Tracey Allen

In Britain, the Every Child Matters (ECM) policy calls for extended schools that contribute to the well-being of young people through services such as family support and efficient referral to special agencies. However, developing an 'extended' school requires substantial cultural change and reorganisation. Using interviews, the author examined the key barriers and facilitators to the implementation of ECM. The participants were staff from 18 schools identified as having successfully or unsuccessfully implemented ECM, and their related local authorities and service providers. A number of key supporting factors were identified. High-implementation schools saw ECM as a core priority, and took an integrated approach to it, ensuring that appropriate structures and processes were in place to ensure its success. They saw ECM as aligned with the developmental priorities with the school rather than as a 'bolt-on' initiative. These schools frequently exhibited extended or distributed leadership approaches and worked to ensure involvement not only from staff, but also from the community and other external stakeholders. Staff development was a key component, with high-implementation schools providing comprehensive training programs to build the school's capacity to manage change. High-implementation schools also made use of associate staff, often parents from the school community, who worked as mentors and learning coaches. Seeing the wider school community as key to student outcomes, they engaged parents and families in a range of educational and well-being related activities such as adult classes and parenting skills programs. The schools also offered a broad academic and vocational curriculum for their students. The degree of support offered by the local district authority was also key. In contrast, low-implementation schools cited several barriers to ECM. These included a lack of coherence in the aims of the school and the wider service providers; the difficulty in managing multiple and conflicting demands, such as the 'performance agenda'; workload management issues; and difficulty in obtaining funding and resources, particularly for staff professional development training.

KLA

Subject Headings

Socially disadvantaged
School leadership
School culture
School and community
Great Britain

Evaluating school travel initiatives and promoting 'healthy travel' through PSHCE

Volume 38 Number 2, May 2010; Pages 117–135
Hazel Baslington

The number of children travelling to school by car in Britain has doubled in the past two decades, prompting the introduction of school travel plans designed to promote healthy and environmentally sustainable travel to school. Using questionnaires and focus groups, the author examined student travel patterns and attitudes across three primary schools with travel plans, and three without. Two of the schools had implemented a 'walking bus' program, where groups of students are chaperoned to and from school by adult supervisors, while the third had implemented a school bus program. The participants were 555 7 to 11-year-olds. Roughly one fifth of students reported walking to and from school every day, while one quarter travelled by car. A number of students used a mix of transport modes, but few travelled by bicycle or public transport. Half of the students varied their travel mode on the way home from school. No significant travel differences were found between schools with travel plans and schools without. Students' favourite mode of travel was by car; public transport, in particular buses, was unpopular. For some the social opportunities afforded by particular transport modes increased their appeal; some transport modes, such as walking home alone, left students feeling isolated or left out. Peer pressure was also an issue, particularly among older students. While students demonstrated some awareness of the health benefits of walking, few commented on the environmental benefits of doing so. The students from schools that had incorporated travel plans had received little supplemental education about transport, health, and the environment. Without such education, there is the possibility that travel plan programs may be short term and merely functional in nature. The introduction of new travel plan initiatives could be accompanied by class units where students are encouraged to complete a travel diary or projects on the local and personal impact of healthy and sustainable travel. Focus groups could also be held with parents and students to gauge parental support and encourage feedback about how the program could be more successful. Doing so will encourage students not only to act but to think differently with regard to their travel patterns, meaning that the initiative is more likely to be successful.

KLA

Subject Headings

School and community
School culture
Primary education
Environmental Education
Health education
Great Britain

Vocabulary development during read-alouds: examining the instructional sequence

Volume 14 Number 1-2,  2010; Pages 65–88
Karen J. Kindle

Read-alouds are often used by teachers as an opportunity for vocabulary instruction. However, such instruction often occurs in an ad-hoc manner rather than within a formal program. Using classroom observations, the authors examined how four early years teachers incorporated vocabulary instruction during read-alouds. None of the teachers were familiar with formal methods of vocabulary instruction, or had received professional development on the topic. However, there were similarities between the teachers' instructional approaches and despite lack of formal training in the topic, their approaches tended to be quite closely aligned with research-based formal models of instruction. Two of the teachers, both taking Grade 2 classes, tended to use strategies aligned with contextual or dialogical approaches. Contextual approaches involve identifying a given word, reading it aloud, obtaining or giving definitions of the word, and then seeking examples of the word in other contexts. Dialogical approaches involve beginning with a prompt, such as asking students for definitions of a target word, providing feedback and then extending the discussion by asking questions or providing additional information. The other teachers, who taught Kindergarten and Grade 1 classes, were more likely to use approaches similar to that of anchored instruction. Anchored instruction approaches emphasise decoding a target word in terms of its letters and sounds, and often involve visual representations. Some instructional sequences were more successful than others. For example, extended sequences involving students guessing the definition of a word were likely to result in confusion, and may have benefited from earlier teacher intervention. Such sequences may represent a lack of planning, and indicate the need for teachers to carefully select appropriate target words prior to reading. Teachers should aim to select words whose definition is clear from the context, and should ensure they have a simple definition prepared if an intervention is required. They should also ensure that students receive subsequent opportunities to hear and use the selected target words.

Key Learning Areas

English

Subject Headings

Literacy
Primary education
Reading

Teachers' conceptions of teacher professionalism in England in 2003 and 2006

Volume 36 Number 4, August 2010; Pages 549–571
Mandy Swann, Donald McIntyre, Tony Pell, et al.

In recent years, new concepts of teacher professionalism have been articulated in Britain, where government policy measures are being used to improve the status of the teaching profession and to enhance teachers' own perceptions of their work. However, little is known about teachers' own conceptions of  teacher professionalism. Two large-scale surveys, conducted in 2003 and in 2006 with a total of 7,300 primary and secondary teachers, examined teacher perspectives of the nature of professionalism. The teachers surveyed did not have a single view of professionalism. Rather, their notion of it centred around certain key elements reflecting traditional components of professionalism. Almost all teachers emphasised the expertise needed for effective classroom teaching, and the need for trust of the profession from the general public and from the government. Other identified components of teacher professionalism included perceptions of teaching as 'constructive learning', and teaching as collaboration with others. The concept of professional autonomy was also evident. However, there was some substantial divergence of opinion in relation to these components, and in particular for that of professional autonomy. This may reflect the influence of recent policy directions. The results indicate that while teachers largely have a traditional view of teacher professionalism comprising strong core professional commitments, certain secondary features are more open to consideration and dispute. These include new features or features that are becoming outdated. These conceptions indicate that teachers are open to changing their conceptions of teacher professionalism, but in a considered way that gradually integrates new components as they become relevant.

KLA

Subject Headings

Great Britain
Teaching profession

Postreading questioning and middle school students' understanding of literature

Volume 31 Number 4, July 2010; Pages 347–364
Lauren Aimonette Laing, Naomi M. Watkins, Michael F. Graves, John Hosp

Students' understanding of a text can be improved by post-reading questioning processes that examine both chronology and meaning. The authors examined how a questioning technique known as a 'story map', involving a series of logical, sequential short-answer questions, facilitated students' understanding when compared with typical questioning approaches or with approaches where no post-reading questioning was undertaken. The participants were 87 middle-years students in the USA. The students read three short stories after which they either completed a story map worksheet, a series of more typical post-reading questions, or undertook no further questioning. Students later completed a comprehension assessment. Both the story map and the typical post-reading questioning conditions were found to result in improved comprehension when compared with the non-questioning condition, although no significant difference was found between the two. However, students using the story map reported greater understanding and greater enjoyment of the texts read. Story maps may offer a useful instructional framework for both encouraging engagement with texts, and in improving students' understanding. They may also be useful when used with expository texts and with younger groups of students.

Key Learning Areas

English

Subject Headings

Classroom activities
Reading
Middle schooling

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